Most reports peg the end of the recession as 2009, but recruiting pros were slow long after that, as job losses outpaced job additions for too long. Talent acquisition naturally took a back seat to other business concerns. When companies struggled, talent acquisition played a lower profile role. (When it really struggles, talent acquisition gets fired, but that’s a really depressing post.) Recruiting guys and gals understandably don’t take center stage when employees are getting pink slipped. I totally get it.
But it seems to be changing, doesn’t it? Business is improving in talent acquisition shops across the country. Thank goodness.
It’s time. We got a little tired of being in the shadows.
Companies are now making aggressive talent adds as markets move, but many will need a different recruiting person than the sorta professional-but-passive recruiting guy who screened his way through the recession. You know the guy I’m talking about—for the last four years, he managed small requisition loads, screened hundreds of active candidates, and worked with managers who had time to fill positions because they were still a little scared to add headcount. Lots of “process enhancement work.” That recruiting guy might not make it now.
How do you know if you have the right recruiting talent? Let me help draw the picture. Remember the scene from The Godfather when Michael Corleone plans the move to Vegas? He meets with his senior team, including Tom Hagen, the family consigliere during the peacetime years.
Michael: … Carlo, you grew up in Nevada. When we make our move there you’re going to be my right hand man. Tom Hagen is no longer Consigliere. He’s going to be our lawyer in Vegas. That’s no reflection on Tom it’s just the way I want it. …
[Everyone except Hagen leaves]
Tom Hagen: Mike, why am I out?
Michael: You’re not a wartime Consigliere, Tom. Things could get rough with the move we’re making.
Corleone needs a “wartime consigliere,” someone who knows how to operate in a rough environment. Tom was all right in soft times, but not in hard times. The famous Ben Horowtiz similarly compared wartime and peacetime CEOs in a blog post last year and noted these differences, all of which apply to recruiters:
- Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win.
- Peacetime CEO focuses on the big picture and empowers her people to make detailed decisions. Wartime CEO cares about a speck of dust on a gnat’s ass if it interferes with the prime directive.
- Peacetime CEO always has a contingency plan. Wartime CEO knows that sometimes you gotta roll a hard six.
- Peacetime CEO thinks of the competition as other ships in a big ocean that may never engage. Wartime CEO thinks the competition is sneaking into her house and trying to kidnap her children.
And I get it—the analogy breaks down if I advocate recruiting pros killing people, and I do not want to imply recruiters go to war each day…they don’t. Soldiers do. Still, I like the concept—I want competitive, aggressive, driven, (a little) paranoid and intense people when it comes to talent acquisition in tight markets. Recruiters might have sat in the back row of the company meeting from 2007-2011, but that’s changing. You don’t need someone to cut off a horse’s head, but you need someone who aggressively protects your interests, gives great counsel and is ready when, as Michael Corleone says, “things could get rough.”